Left In Lowell

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March 12, 2009

Thinking Out Loud for 3/13/09

by at 4:34 pm.

Tomorrow we’ll be talking to Suzzanne Cromwell, organizer of the Lowell Film Festival, which is now in its second year. (Lowellfilms.org). Tune in on WUML 91.5FM, or listen live online at WUML’s website.

March 11, 2009

Mass Earmarks

by at 10:59 pm.

I just saw the list of projects earmarked for Massachusetts in the Federal Spending Bill that was published on the Globe’s web site.

Of course the first thing I did was check to see how much of the $137M coming to Massachusetts was coming to Lowell. This is what we are scheduled to receive:

$428,000 for Lowell General Hospital, for facilities and equipment

$150,000 for the Lowell Police Department’s Law Enforcement Video Information Sharing (LEVIS) project

I read what President Obama said today regarding earmarks and this spending bill:

I am signing an imperfect omnibus bill because it’s necessary for the ongoing functions of government, and we have a lot more work to do… We can’t have Congress bogged down at this critical juncture in our economic recovery. But I also view this as a departure point for more far-reaching change.

In my discussions with Congress, we have talked about the need for further reforms to ensure that the budget process inspires trust and confidence instead of cynicism. So I believe as we move forward, we can come together around principles that prevent the abuse of earmarks….These principles begin with a simple concept: Earmarks must have a legitimate and worthy public purpose.

And I believe our President but he has a lot of work to do to get Congress to stop this practice. I do not mind spending money on programs that benefit the greater good but I am finding it hard to see the necessity to proceed with some of these projects when cities such as Lowell have infrastructure problems

We could really use the $500,000 that will go to the Provincetown Center for Coastal Studies right whale conservation studies. Heh, we would have applied it to our CSO repairs cost the same way New Bedford, Fall River, and Acushnet will apply the $750,000 they are going to receive.

This earmark list should be titled, it is not what you need it is who you know.

SJC to review City ordinance

by at 6:44 am.

This morning’s Globe reports that Lowell’s teenage curfew law will be reviewed by the state’s Supreme Judicial Court.

The law has been in effect for about 15 years. It was put in place as a result of the escalating gang activities in the City. Kids were killing other kids.

According to the Globe, “ This is the first time a Massachusetts state court will rule on whether juvenile curfews are legal, and communities with curfews - including Lynn, Holyoke and Chicopee - are watching the case closely.”

This lawsuit was brought by two kids, under the age of 17, who in 2004 were out after 11:00 p.m. unaccompanied by an adult and they were arrested because they violated this City ordinance.

Although I consider myself a defender of civil liberties, I do not see any compelling reasons why someone 16 or under should have the right to walk around unaccompanied after 11:00 p.m. Where is he/she going? If they want to go to the movies, go to an earlier showing. The Globe’s article points out that the law is working and that the police does use discretion.

And what rights do we have as a community to govern ourselves as we see fit?

March 10, 2009

Your EPA - Now, With More Environment!

by at 3:58 pm.

Elections have consequences! Tomorrow, President Obama’s EPA will be hearing the case from California, Massachusetts, and other states who are interested in raising auto emission standards in an effort to combat the global climate crisis. This can be done under the existing Clean Air Act, which gives CA the right to tougher rules and for other states to adopt CA’s standards after, but the Bush administration denied CA a waiver in 2005 when they passed the new standards.

From the press release of Environment Massachusetts:

Giving a green light to Massachusetts’ clean cars program would reduce global warming pollution from cars by 26.1 million metric tons by 2020. And from reduced gasoline consumption, Bay Staters would save $5 Billion by 2020 at the pump, according to Environment Massachusetts’ analysis.
[…]
In 2005, California adopted first-of-their-kind standards requiring cars and light-duty trucks to limit emissions that contribute to global warming. The standards would cut global warming emissions from passenger vehicles by 30 percent by 2016. A total of 13 other states—Arizona, Connecticut, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New Mexico, New York, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington, plus the District of Columbia —have adopted the tailpipe standards. Several additional states are actively considering adopting the standards.

Finally, we have an Environmental Protection Agency poised to actually protect the environment.

Is Your House In Danger?

by at 1:28 pm.

Via comments in a month-old post on the state of our fire department fleet, “tryin to stay anonymous” gives some context to a recent news item:

You know the DPW truck that burned yesterday? The Sun stated the fire department had trouble getting water on the fire. What the story didn’t say was that it was because the spare engine currently in service at Pine St malfunctioned for a few moments. Their regular engine has brake problems.

Not a big deal if its an ancient city truck burning outside. A very big deal if your inside someone’s burning home holding a hose with no water.

To me, this goes beyond politics and hits us right where we live, literally and figuratively. (I wouldn’t mind if someone confirmed that this is true, not that “tryin” hasn’t been a credible commenter, because he/she has.)

We live in this city, and many of us own homes, and even renters have a lot to lose (their possessions, at the least, and their lives, at the worst) if our fire fighters cannot have the response time that most people would deem essential, due to faulty equipment or the closures of fire houses.

One can hardly blame the firefighters, so who is to blame? The economy…well, certainly money is tight. But we are all to blame, for allowing politically motivated people to demonize government at every turn, to make us believe we don’t need these services, that the cuts won’t hurt - much. Well, they do, and they have, and your house, or your neighbor’s, could be the next victim. This is a problem that has been building for years, and we have cut our nose to spite our face.

God Forbid We Ask Questions

by at 10:07 am.

The furor over School Committee members and access to staff in the schools has prompted SC member and blogger Jackie Doherty to write a response.

Whether I am “on a mission” as one colleague muses, I admit it freely: Yes! I am on a mission to improve our schools. I do that by getting information from all levels of the system, from pre-k to the high school, from administrators, parents, students, teachers, custodians, security officers, community partners—you name it; if they’re involved with our students, I want to learn their perspective and use it to improve our schools. I am always respectful, professional, and mindful of the boundaries.

No policy should preclude the elected body or members of it of asking questions of staff members, with or without permission of the school’s administrator. Of course, whenever possible, or desirable, the administrator should be notified, and certainly interference (a.k.a. micromanagement) in the business of running the school is not appropriate, but what is this hush policy on just talking to the damn teachers all about? Coddling administrators’ egos? Give me a break. We elected these people to be the final line of accountability, but we want to hobble their ability to get information to understand what’s needed or what’s happening in the schools?

Jackie explains:

It becomes even more serious when it is curtailed, as indicated by one administrator insisting all questions to his staff be made in his presence—regardless of chain-of-command approval in his absence or the nature of the questions. (In this case, the question was what the recycling club needed from the city, and the visit included, at the invitation of a teacher, watching a science experiment for five minutes.)

Keee-rist people! This is what were up in arms about? An SC member observing a science experiment and gathering information about a recycling club? Jackie sums it up even better than me: “Far more alarming, however, is the idea that staff may be discouraged, even forbidden, from sharing insights with us. That is not a model for good management, nor does it help move the schools forward. Fortunately, we’re not talking about a private business, we’re talking about our public schools, funded by taxpayers to educate our children under the leadership (and scrutiny) of an elected school committee.”

Just when I think that politics around here grows up ever so slightly, someone proves me wrong…

March 9, 2009

Worst. Self Promoter. Ever.

by at 8:14 am.

If you caught WCAP this morning from about 7:20 to 8pm, you heard myself and Shawn of Dracut Forum having a friendly debate on the air. It was a lot of fun. Shawn and I even found areas of common ground (I think Teddy Panos almost had a heart attack!) and hashed out a lot of local, state, and national issues from our respective points of view.

Once again I failed to put up a post to mention it and let you all know ahead of time. In my defense, our water heater finally gave out this weekend and I was running around dealing with that. (It’s been a brutal winter for house appliance and car repair costs!)

Anyway, every Monday morning you’ll probably find one of us, myself or Mimi, in the blogger’s timeslot between 7 and 8am, so tune in every week! Next week you’ll hear from Mimi, and I’ll be back in two weeks.

LiL - Affecting National Policy on Coins?

by at 7:46 am.

Jackie wrote about the Globe article which mentioned that in the Governor’s public online voting about the new Massachusetts coin, the Lowell National Parks make it to second place on the list of possible historic and natural treasures to be depicted on the coin.

Now, the LNHP was behind the Gloucester’s Fisherman’s Memorial by a very large margin. However, if you recall, I linked to and wrote about the voting and encouraged people to show some hometown pride and vote for our own National Park.

I would love to see the list of referring URLs on that particular page! Is this evidence of LiL’s burgeoning ability to (almost) affect the outcome of inconsequential decisions by the federal government? ;)

March 8, 2009

Because of Her…Lowell Women’s Week Award Recipients

by at 8:06 pm.

Lowell Women’s Week will come to an end tomorrow with the Breakfast Celebration that was rescheduled from last Monday due to a snow storm.

The week-long series of event, which included Lectures, films, museum tours, panel discussion, workshop, will culminate with the presentation of the Because of Her Award which “recognizes women who demonstrate a strong commitment to their community through their courage, generosity, compassion, and activism.”

This year three women will be honored:

Gladys Picanso is 90 yrs old and is recognized for her work with the Portugese community over the past 50 yrs. Picanso helped many immigrant families transition from Portugal to the US.

Sandra Creamer is a nurse at Saints Medical Center. About 13 years ago, she became involved in the Chernobyl Children’s Project. She standardized the treatment for approx. 50 children, that visit the US each year to treat the lasting effects of the Chernobyl Nuclear accident. Recently Sandra started the SPINDLE fund, which helps cancer patients at SMC w/ everything from Rx costs, co-pays, groceries and wigs, for those going through cancer treatments.

And our own Kristin Ross-Sitcawich. In addition to her witty comments on LiL, Kristin or K-R-S’s day job is as Program Director at a homeless shelter in Lowell. Everyday she sees to it that her clients, the needest in our society, get excellent quality of care, services while also holding clients accountable for their actions.

As we know she is a political advocate defending the environment and citizens’ rights. She is also a keep-the-canals-clean fanatic. She is on the Board of Canal CleanWaters and chaired their last fundraiser.

Her professional career has made acutely aware of the plight of the homeless. That is why Kristen served as Chairperson of the new Subcommittee to Save Winter Protocol for the LTLC Shelter so that the 30-40 street homeless do not freeze to death this winter. This is a natural extension of her role as chairperson of the Hunger/Homeless Commission. As if that is not enough to make one tired just to think about it, she is an active board member of both Lowell Community Health Center and the Wish Project Furniture Bank

Congratulations to the award recipients.

No, no to nano?

by at 7:00 am.

On Friday, when I read on the Globe’s web site that “the University of Massachusetts Lowell is scuttling plans” to build the $90 million science center, because the University’s building authority cannot borrow the necessary $35 million in this bond market, I was both surprised and disappointed. I thought this was a done deal and construction had begun. Little do I know! I should pay attention.

Back in April 2007 when Governor Deval Patrick came to the school to deliver the down payment on the construction of the technical center, Lynne’s post on the visit and press conference reflected the optimism that we all felt:

The new nanotech building will bring together many disciplines, said MA University system president Jack Wilson. Bio and nano manufacturing will be incubated in the new labs. State Senator Panagiotakos spoke to the efforts that brought the University its funding for this project - 4-5 years of putting together the proposals and getting colleagues’ support. …bringing education, economic development, and job creation together for the greater good, not just in Lowell, but statewide, nationally, and even internationally, as the Senator said.

I heard State Senator Steve Panagiatakos on Warren Shaw’s radio show yesterday. He reiterated what he said to Matt Murphy :

’The markets have made it hard to borrow the total amount, but I don’t think it’s enough to walk away from the project at all, and I’m very disappointed in the remarks,’ Panagiotakos said. ‘On our end, we have never given up on this project and we won’t. It’s too important to the region for sustainable economic development.’

The Senator was not pleased with the sequence of events and even cautioned that if the University does not move forward with the construction, they will have to return the $10 Million to the State. I think that is going to be hard to do; Murphy reports that the money was given for design and permits. I would think that in 2 years a lot of that money has been used for its intended purpose.

All this begs the question, how are you going to afford to build a practice rink, fix the Arena and subsidize its operating costs if you cannot build a science center which is essential to your mission. My suggestion would be for the Lowell City Council to begin formulating Plan B for the Tsongas Arena. I still do not see how the University is going to come up with the funds to make this happen.

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